Progress Edition

Port of Kennewick: Delivering positive returns on community investments

Construction of three winery buildings and east Columbia Drive streetscaping is underway at Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village near Clover Island.
Construction of three winery buildings and east Columbia Drive streetscaping is underway at Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village near Clover Island.

Residents are asking community leaders to diversify the businesses and industries that sustain the Tri-Cities. They are demanding better access to rivers and clamoring for amenities that add to our quality of life. The Port of Kennewick is delivering.

The port’s mission is to support sound economic growth strategies that create jobs, add infrastructure and enhance our community. But we don’t do this important work alone.

Our partners in West Richland, Richland, Kennewick, Benton City and Benton County collaborate with us to make bold, strategic investments, which are transforming tired properties into vibrant destinations.

At Vista Field, the port is teaming with stakeholders and the City of Kennewick to redevelop the former airfield into a regional town center.

This year, we will focus on completion of the Vista Field master plan, financing, phase one construction design and recruiting developers. While we are all eager to break ground, this type of development is unprecedented locally, requiring significant behind-the-scenes preparation. This heavy lift now will ensure we meet our community commitments while generating positive economic returns — without increasing taxes or costs to taxpayers.

For several years, a partnership of public, private and tribal agencies has been working on Historic Kennewick Waterfront revitalization projects and amenities on Clover Island, around Duffy’s Pond and along east Columbia Drive. Together, we are reinvigorating this economically distressed, industrial neighborhood.

As part of these efforts, at the Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village, construction is underway on three port-owned winery buildings and a new city-managed winery wastewater discharge and treatment facility. Two winemakers have been accepted as phase one tenants. The port is negotiating with a third winery and in discussions with other businesses about future tenancy.

Columbia Basin College is in early planning for a $10 million, 20,000-square-foot Culinary Institute on adjacent port-owned land at The Willows. The port and city are jointly applying for Benton County Rural County Capital Funds (a .09 percent sales tax rebate — not an additional tax) to support improvements at The Willows and Columbia Gardens phase two.

Together, these projects will expand needed workforce training, spur employment, grow the wine industry and increase regional tourism spending. They will also provide a lively waterfront gathering place with boutique wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants, shops, art and a scenic trail.

On Clover Island, the port and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are undertaking a habitat restoration and recreation project this spring. This effort will recondition about a half-mile of shoreline and extend the island’s north shoreline riverwalk. In addition, the port will begin the Gathering Place project, which will extend the south shoreline trail, install artwork honoring heritage of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and remove the former port office building from the island’s northwest corner.

We have nearly completed Spaulding Business Park on Columbia Park Trail, a joint effort with the City of Richland. To date, $37 million in private investment has built 165,000 square feet of buildings, with another 42,000 square feet under construction. The city and port are now seeking another project of mutual benefit.

In West Richland, renovation priorities for the Tri-City Raceway were identified last fall as part of the port’s comprehensive public planning workshop. During the next four years, the port will earmark funding for a future joint project.

In all we do, the port remains mindful that we are stewards of the public’s trust. We will continue to exercise careful planning, give diligent consideration to potential projects and ensure resources and developments are economically sustainable, delivering a positive return on investment for the communities we serve.